Big Girl!

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Isabelle was born on June 25, and it’s so amazing to see how much she’s grown in the last four months.  She loves to run when she gets out to the pasture, and she nibbles at hay and grass like her mom.  She’s frisky, and it’s clear we’ll have to get a bit in her mouth to train her soon, as she’s realized she’s bigger and stronger than her humans, and even nipped my brother on the arm before bounding through the open gate.  She’s still nursing, and it’s amazing how much weight Annabelle has lost.  The vet spoke to us about weaning her, about how if she doesn’t stop nursing on her own, we’ll have to separate the two of them until Annabelle’s milk dries up.  He said we’ll risk having a full-grown nursing horse if we don’t start to wean her around six months.

To behonest, I disagree.  I see the bond between mother and baby, and I don’t want to have them separated.  Our draft teams, Bob and Duke, were full brothers and they hated to be separated, even for a short period of time like having a bath.  They’d call to each other, and it would be clear that they were nervous.  I can only imagine how that would be magnified to separate mother from baby.  Isabelle is Annabelle’s third foal, but both of her others were sold, and while I don’t know much about thought processes in horses, I would imagine Annabelle would think Isabelle was going to disappear forever, too.  That’s not the case, however, we plan to keep both of them together, and breed Annabelle again so that Isabelle and the new baby can be a team.  So, I hope that Isabelle will wean herself or Annabelle will stop allowing her to nurse on demand.  Either way, I hope we don’t have to separate them.

Isabelle and Annabelle became the star attractions of the petting zoo at the farm this summer and fall.  They had a double fence, with electric on the inside, so people couldn’t pet them, but still, everyone loved visiting with them.  Parents and children read the signs to learn about draft horses, Shires, and Isabelle’s birth.  Even when Annabelle kept her baby in the shade of the barn during the hot day, people would wait to see them come out and graze.  Annabelle’s a wonderful mom, and when Isabelle takes a nap, she stands over her and guards her while she sleeps.  In fact, nap time is the only time I think Annabelle has something more important on her mind than food.

We’re so happy to have added these two horses to our family, and looking back, it’s hard to imagine life without them.

Don’t forget to visit Horse Tales for all the stories and pictures of our horses!

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Big Girl!

  1. I also have a filly about five months old. She’s a shetland pony/who knows what something big cross. Adorable. I’ve also been told it’s time to separate them, so that the baby will stop nursing and so that she will learn to be more tractable to train. I resist separating them, but I have heard the same thing from all the horse people I know, so I tend to think they probably know more than I do.
    Your baby is beautiful! Good luck with her!

  2. If you’re not looking for advice/don’t want opinions just ignore me here. If you’re looking for some ideas there are some gradual methods of weaning that might work well in your situation. Basically either take baby out and brush her, lunge her, whatever for longer and longer periods until the separation is no big deal, or separate them over a fence. If they can still touch noses, see, and smell each other then it shouldn’t be nearly as stressful. The only part you’re trying to stop is the nursing anyway.
    I’ve seen horses weaned suddenly with the mare trying to kick her stall down on one side of the farm and the foal screaming his head of at the other. That’s not fun for anyone and I wouldn’t do it that way either!
    Just think of Mama, she needs to be in good shape for her next baby! :)

    • Thanks for the advice! We do have a divided pen, so maybe that would work. I just don’t like the idea of them not being able to sleep next to each other. I think my dad will have the final say anyway.

  3. I know with cows there are devices that keep them from nursing. One is called a Kant Suck. Maybe they have something like that for horses.

  4. Nice update on Isabelle, Abbie!

    It seems that people can learn a lot from animals on parenting! Annabelle is the perfect Mom!

    I agree that nature will take care of the weaning process and do hope we don’t have to separate Mom and baby. Annabelle has taught Baby Belle so much already and I’m quite sure she’ll let her know when she’s had enough of nursing. Baby is eating grain and hay and Annabelle is quite clear on letting her know the ropes of what’s hers and what isn’t, so I think that natural weaning will follow.

    Speaking from personal experience, when both Mom and baby are ready to wean, that’s the best time and it will happen naturally!

  5. Abbie, they should be fine, and you know my views on natural weaning. When we had our drafters, we began as Jena suggests, small training sessions, and teaching things like being tied, etc. We also started immediately (2 weeks of age) bringing the foal when we hitched, and securing the foal to mama. This type of training works well because mama is there and is calm, so the foal gets used to all the noises, smells and other things that hitch horses may get exposed to. Our last baby went in a parade at 4 weeks, and was a perfect gem. The more you can handle them before weaning the better. By six months we were able to have mom and baby separated in their own tie stalls for the night, with no fussing. That helps mom a little with less on demand nursing, and the foal can still nurse throughout the day.

    And with cows, the feed really needs to be increased to make up for milk production. If the dam goes into a negative energy balance it is hard for them too conceive.

    They are beautiful – Annabelle will probably put a stop to the nursing when she thinks the time is right.

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